A wonderful recent new addition to the Toowoomba CBD is a peace mural on Neil Street. The Peace and Harmony mural concept was initiated by the Toowoomba Goodwill Committee of which I am currently chair and it was a delight to assist in the development of the mural, particularly through a fundraising meal at our All Saints centre. For the Goodwill Committee’s goal is to develop Toowoomba as a city of Peace and Harmony through interfaith and multicultural dialog and activities. There are a number of groups within the Toowoomba community working on violence prevention, community safety and social cohesion, social justice and helping people in need of support and assistance. Each of these organisations is helping to make Toowoomba a better place to live, work and raise families. The Goodwill Committee aims to help focus and harness this work together and to raise the profile of peace and harmony through a variety of creative means.
A working group which included representatives from the Goodwill Committee, Toowoomba Youth Service and the First Coat art festival decided on a theme of “One and the same” for a mural in Toowoomba. Internationally renowned Melbourne based artist Adnate (see above working on the project) was approached to see if he would be involved in doing a peace and harmony portrait for Toowoomba. The artist supported the concept and agreed to come to Toowoomba to do a mural. The artist also worked with Toowoomba youth agencies while he was in Toowoomba, engaged with young people during the completion of the mural and also attended some organised community engagements and youth workshops. Several young people from the Toowoomba Youth services “All Type” youth mentoring program supported the artist over the weekend and were tasked with recording the progress of the mural.
The artist decided to do a mural of an Aboriginal youth in recognition of aboriginal people for whom he has a great respect. He had spent time studying and associating with Aboriginal people in various places across Australia growing in his understanding of their culture. The connection of the mural to peace is in the beauty of the face, sky and land and recognising the Australian Aboriginal as the first people who have a rich cultural background. In some ways we are all different but in some ways we are the same.
We realise that one mural does not solve our social problems but it a positive step towards recognition of aboriginal people and their cultural history. Art is very subjective and people will inevitably interpret the mural in different ways. We hope people will accept it as a beautiful piece of art to be enjoyed by Toowoomba people and visitors alike.
This week I spent two days reflecting together with others on the next steps in the journey of peace and harmony in Toowoomba. The first day was with other members of the Goodwill Committee, developed at the invitation of the Pure Land Learning College to help give community direction to the Pure Land Venerable Master's vision of Toowoomba as 'a model city' of peace and harmony. On the second day we joined by some other wonderful key community leaders, acting as 'critical friends' to help take forward our hopes and ideas. Thanks are also due to Prof Michael Cuthill of USQ for his able facilitation. For it was a very profitable time, developing our structure (even if I was asked to be GWC chair for the forthcoming year!), our shared sense of purpose and key areas of partnership with others. GWC groups are now working particularly on specifics for: the development of agreed community values for our work, Indigenous engagement, youth engagement, peace art, further multi-faith understanding and action, and grounding our connections with UNESCO through official partnerships such as the 'Creative Cities' program.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.